I started my journey on the environmental path with a keen fascination with plastic pollution and waste, but my interest quickly branched out to include all things related to climate change. As anyone reading this may relate, the more I learned about climate change, the more I saw the connections between climate change and numerous other issues, including some obvious ones like transportation.
I recently attended the Advocacy Learning Institute (ALI) organized by Cascade Bicycle Club, a nonprofit that advocates for safer bike infrastructure, leads bike rides, and educates community members about bike safety. The purpose of ALI was to provide attendees the tools to become better advocates for a bike-friendly city. I was not a typical attendee of ALI as I was far from a regular biker – all I had was a dysfunctional bike that was in such bad condition that even a recycled-bikes store didn’t have any use for it. As I listened to the speakers at the 2-day Advocacy Leadership Institute, I noticed several ideas that kept re-occurring that can be applied to a wide array of issues.
Here are three important takeaways from ALI that can be used for any kind of advocacy work:
- Whatever your goal or project is, try to connect with organizations and individuals whose priorities may be different from yours, but whose values would agree with your project and help propel it forward. For example, a campaign for greener transportation options can be led by a coalition of anti-growth advocates, environmentalists, affordable housing advocates, Parent Teacher Association (PTA) members, and many others. A cause that is supported by a variety of organizations will be stronger and more likely to attract the needed attention from the local government or whomever youŕe trying to communicate with in order to create the desired change.
- When stating your position on an issue, whether it’s in verbal or written format, strive to include both facts and a personal story. Why are you advocating on this topic? How are you personally impacted by it? Data and statistics will make you reputable, while adding a personal story will make people emphasize with you and listen to your perspective.
- Choosing the right framework for a campaign can be immensely important for its success. A campaign for greener transportation options can be framed as an effort to reduce air pollution, make transportation more affordable and accessible, reduce traffic accidents, improve community members’ health, or help more kids to walk and bike to school. The framework that will make the campaign most effective depends on the priorities of the target audience, whether that is the voters or the City Council.
I went to the Advocacy Learning Institute because I wanted to learn how to be a better advocate for climate change issues. By the time I walked out of the last workshop, I had my own bike and was seeing my own city from the perspective of a casual cyclist.
Cascade Bicycle Club organizes bike rides, educates people about bike safety, and teaches people to be better advocates.
– Liepa Braciulyte